This little atoll called Amanu has proven to be a true hidden gem. The turquoise water is so clear that you can see 15-18 meters deep. The corals are healthy, the motus are lined with beautiful, swaying palm trees, and the locals are friendly.
Sugar Shack at Amanu
Amanu has gifted us with many beautiful rainbows (after a free boat wash).
And of course, gorgeous sunsets.
Sugar Shack seems to have found a little slice of heaven on the southeast side of Amanu.
Anchored in Amanu
Matt is happy here as well.
Kite boarders love this area because it is windy and shallow. A young couple who have a kite school out of Fakarava were here with a charter. They gifted us with many hours of free entertainment. Pretty spectacular what they can do in high winds and seas.
They were pretty far from us, but I tried to zoom in to capture them in the air.
Motus around Amanu
We explore lots and lots of motus. So many that I cannot name them all because they don’t have names on our charts. We walk from one motu, across small bodies of water to another motu and carry on until we get tired. The terrain on the motus differs wildly. From afar, there appears to be beaches.
But very rarely do you find sandy shores. The shores are usually covered in coral. Broken coral, ranging in various sizes, and shells cover the shores.
As you get to the windward side of the motus the coral is much larger. These can be a little harder to walk across.
And of course, you cross over many bodies of water in between. Sometimes, during low tide you just have the sea bed (top left photo). Often times you have ankle deep water (top right). And other times you have a little sand (bottom right) and yet other times you have hard packed coral in between the bushes (bottom left).
The terrain of the motu
We crossed over several low water crossings, using sandy spits to navigate to shore. Some where above water, some below by 1′ and some as much as 3′.
One lone palm stood out on a motu. We had to go visit it. Do you see the palm way in the distance in the top photo?
A Whale inside the lagoon
We spotted two whales inside the Amanu lagoon! What a treat. Unfortunately, I did not have the large camera out to get good shots of this graceful creature. But I did grab a few shots with my phone.
She was about 100 meters (one football field) away.
A whale inside the lagoon
I loved watching the tale gently glide under the water only to see the spout shortly after.
The beautiful whale tail
Amanu has surprised and wowed us!
Events from this blog post occurred around the 1st week of December, 2020. Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.
Matt and I spent several days exploring the motus all around our anchorage. We found little passageways between the reefs that allowed us to bring Sweetie closer to the motu. The first day was really blind ambition. We had set out with no water, no money and a curiosity to see the small spits of land that make up the ring around Amanu.
On our first adventure netted lots of sea treasures. We only collect shells from the beach and always make sure they are uninhabited. The strange thing is that most of the really beautiful shells are occupied. We gently put them back where we found them and walk away with a pout.
The water is still warm, but not as warm as in Tikehau. We explore all the way out to the reef (can you find Matt in the photo)?
We walk across dead coral, shards of coral, and broken shells. Some areas are shallow water where you have to avoid the millions (not exaggerating) of sea cucumbers. I swear Amanu is the breeding ground for all of the world’s sea cucumbers. Ick!
Walking across shallow water proves to be more challenging then you’d think. Between trying not to step on the sea cucumbers, walking around the coral and avoiding the holes.
We found a road that looked like it would lead to town. But we had already walked a few miles with no water and since we had no money, we decided to walk to town another day.
The Town of Amanu
The next day, we headed out more prepared. We had water, money, Band-Aids, and a burning desire to see the town of Amanu.
We decided to take the road into town and walk the beach on the way back. It did not take nearly as long to get town as we thought but then again, we went straight there instead of exploring the motus (since we did that the day before). The walk around town and round trip ended up being about 4.6miles.
The town is super small and consists of the following:
Magasin (market) with only basic dry goods (no fresh)
Le Maire (mayor’s office)
OPT (post office)
Many abandoned relics
There are a few roads, but we walked all of them and around the entire town in about 10 minutes. Very small with loads of friendly people.
We came across several cemeteries. I know it is morbid but I am always fascinated with cemeteries. Here we found several amazingly gorgeous, hand carved crosses, with lots of shellac.
There were lots of abandoned buildings dating back to the 1800s! I sure wish we had the history on these buildings.
The church is right by the pass. It is an old building, but behind it you will see modern technology at its best (solar panels).
The Pass at Amanu
We hung out by the pass leading into the Amanu lagoon and watched a few boats come in during slack tide. The top two photos show the entrance to the pass. The bottom photo is the center of the pass.
We walked along the wall that follows the pass.
Matt along the pass
Toward the entrance is a surf break where the water was so clear you could see the reef through the waves.
By sheer luck, we ran into the mayor, Francois. He is the youngest mayor in all of French Polynesia and France! I believe he is in his late 20’s and he was marvelous. He also happens to be the nurse on island!
Me and Francois, the Mayor of Amanu
Amanu Fun Photos
Can you see Sugar Shack across the reef and lagoon in the background?
Can you see Sugar Shack?
Matt taking a break on our walk back to the boat on day 2
Sugar Shack is anchored in the middle of a “C” shaped reef. It is amazing to see the reef appear during low tide and disappear in high tide.
INSERT 2 COLLAGE OF REEF NEAR ANCHORAGE
Events from this blog post occurred around the 4th week of November, 2020. Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.
The prevailing winds in French Polynesia are typically east. Guess where we need to go? South East. We had waited for a good weather window to head south and east from the Tuamotus to the Gambiers. It is a long passage, about 765nm as the crow flies which means closer to 800-850nm for a sail boat. This journey would take us 6/7 days if all went well.
We left Toau at 1430 in the afternoon with light winds, calm seas, and blue skies. It was a lovely start. We quickly got into a groove as we settled into this passage. Our first night was really nice as the moon was almost full and super bright.
Because we left in the late afternoon our 24hour periods will be funky (so day 2 is still part of the first 24-hour sailing period).
2nd Day – 1st 24 hours
We had 3 fishing lines and a teaser out. Not sure why as we still had a ton of marlin in the freezer. But Matt is a glutton for punishment. We got a hit on the smallest rod and reel (30). Of course, it spooled out and the line broke at the swivel. Crap! No big deal, Matt made another lure just like the first one and put the line back out (with tighter tension).
We passed Kauehi and Raraka (two small, uninhabited atolls). We are making as much “easting” as we can before the wind shifted to the east. Our goal is to pass most of the islands on their east side if possible. We did manage to avoid a rather large squall. And then we were rewarded with a double rainbow!
A perfect journey
Trip Details: 1ST 24 Hour Period
Miles sailed: 139nm
Max Speed: 9.8kt
Average Speed: 5.8kt
3rd Day – 2nd 24 Hours
It is always a bit challenging to change your sleeping habits on a 6/7-day journey like this. Matt and I take 3-hour shifts. Which means, he is on for 3 hours, then goes to sleep, while I am on. Rinse, repeat, rinse repeat.
We got another bite on the small rod/reel but the bugger got away. At least he left the lure behind.
Another pretty sunset.
And the moon came out to guide us through the night.
Moonrise. A perfect night journey.
We pass several more atolls: Katiu, Makemo, Marutea, Nihiru, Tekokota, and Tauere.
Trip Details:48 hours
Miles Traveled: 142nm
Overall, Miles Traveled: 281nm
Max Speed: 11.0kt
Average Speed: 5.9kt
We ended up dodging squalls all night and most of the morning. Keeps you busy and on your toes. We had a decision to make. The new weather update showed the east winds coming a lot sooner and lighter than anticipated. We could motor up and around Amanu, sail for 2.5 days and then motor the remaining 1.5 days to Gambier. Or, the other option is to head to Amanu, wait for daylight and hang out at this new to us atoll for the weather to improve. We decided to go to Amanu.
We slowed the boat down as our instruments were showing a 2200-2400 arrival which is not good. However, we did not slow it down enough as we arrived at 2400 with just the light from the moon. Our trip details at our arrival outside the pass.
Trip Details: 58 hours
Miles Traveled: 55nm
Overall, Miles Traveled: 336nm
Max Speed: 11.0kt
Average Speed: 5.7kt
This was 9.5 hours after our 48hr mark
Since we could not enter the pass at night, we circled, and circled, and circled. The big circle is when we first arrived and took us from 0100-0500. We slowly motored closer to shore to get a look at the narrow pass. The guestimator showed slack tide at 0824 but when we approached at that time it was not navigable. So, we circled some more. The image below shows our creative journey outside the pass.
Circling Amanu waiting for sunrise. Journey cut short.
As you enter the lagoon there is a dog leg that you have to avoid by hanging a sharp right. Easy peazy. The sun was shing bright showcasing the reef, the tide was not bad and the winds were light.
Entering Amanu Pass
Once the tides settled down, we had a beautiful entrance into Amanu’s lagoon. These photos are from the port side of the boat.
Amanu Pass at slack tide
The starboard side has the church and main village of the atoll. A large reef extends beyond the concrete wall which has to be avoided (of course). We had 2kts of outgoing current as we entered.
We were greeted by the locals in two different fishing boats, super nice!
Locals welcoming us to Amanu
Sticking the Anchor
It took us 3 attempts to stick the anchor and avoid the huge coral heads. What a pain in the a$$! We have to float our chain, so it is dropping the anchor, setting it, pulling up the chain (70 meters), placing 7 floats (about every 10 meters), setting it again and swimming on it. The first time we were too close to two large bommies. The second time didn’t stick well. Raise the chain, remove the floats and try again. Third time is a charm. Ugh, but we are secure and ready for a nap.
We dropped our anchor in 15 meters of water surrounded by bommies (thus the floats). It is a “c” shape spot with some protection from the wind and fetch. You can see from the photo that we are not far from the pass or village. (Pass and village top of photo).